Rider in the storm
Tulsa man cycles to work even in winter weather.
As Brian Potter furiously pedals down Sheridan Road amid the snow, slush and fast-moving cars, he figures that if it’s bad enough outside that he can’t ride his bike, then, well, all the vehicles in Tulsa should probably be parked, too.
It takes a lot to keep the 41-year-old Tulsa Community College assistant professor of English off his bike, but the brutal 2007 ice storm proved to be enough. It left the year-round bike commuter strapping on a pair of snow shoes to walk the half-mile from his home to the nearest bus stop.
But more routine types of winter weather aren’t enough to stop Potter.
"Not much changes when it gets snowy and icy. I continue to obey the laws," he said after riding the six miles from his home to a 15th Street Java Dave’s. He arrived clad in layers of clothing and hiking boots with a pair of microspike crampons attached.
Potter’s main problem in snow is that it often narrows city streets, leaving him in a one-lane situation where motorists can’t pass him. Potter hates that.
Sidewalks are not an option for Potter, who is a licensed League of American Bicyclists cycling instructor and served as lead instructor of Tulsa Tough’s bicycling education clinic.
"Riding on sidewalks — depending on your speed — is between 4 and 12 percent more fatal than riding on the road," Potter said. "Eighty percent of accidents happen at intersections, so what you run into on the sidewalk is an increased risk factor of crossing side streets and driveways."
He emphasized that "cyclists who ride the way I do have about one-tenth the number of accidents than your average cyclist does."
Frozen ruts and packed ice affect how his bike handles, especially when the street is uneven, he said.
"I have to maneuver a little bit, and maybe even put a foot down," Potter said. "But bikes are really versatile, so a mountain bike can handle lots of different terrain. You just have to allow a little extra time."
Potter has been a bike commuter since 1992, when he was a University of Texas graduate student. By 1998, he no longer had much use for a car.
Since 2000, he hasn’t "spent any money on a car except to help a friend with gas for almost that long."
He once used an online calculator to figure out how much money he’s saved in roughly 10 years of full-time bike commuting, rather than driving a car.
"It says I’ve saved something like $75,000," Potter said with a grin. "I’m trying to figure out where that went. I sure would like to have that $75,000."